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(December 2012)

QuestionSweetgum trees have beautiful fall color and a pleasing shape, but oh, the plague of the sweetgum balls. Here's my question/problem. Ten years ago I bought a ten foot sweetgum tree from a nursery and was told it would not produce the dreaded gum balls. It didn't for 8 years or if there were any, I sure didn't notice them. Last year, for the first time, I noticed a few. This year, the darn things are all over the tree. How can a sweetgum tree go from being "gum ball-less" to "gum ball-full?"

AnswerIt has to be old enough to begin to bear fruit. Most sweetgum balls will begin to bear at on average, 8-10 years, and will continue to produce the rest of their lives. There is a fruitless variety that has rounded lobes instead of the pointy ones of the fruited variety. Fruitless varieties are typically grafted trees, and if they are killed beneath the graft union, the root stalk is typically a common sweetgum and will bear fruit. In a recent column we discussed the merits and lack thereof for sweetgum trees. Here isare some additional responses and questions from readers: I would suggest one other attribute of the sweet gum. In 1953, when I attended the Boy Scout Jamboree in California, I took several sweet gum balls to trade with other scouts for different items of equal value. I called these gum balls porcupine eggs to suggest that porcupines grew in the forests of Oklahoma and Arkansas. One scout from California traded me a block of California Redwood with inscription and a clear finish. We were both pleased with the trade. Since then, I have pointed out to many kids that I have encountered in the woods to be on the look out for porcupine eggs on the ground. I do have a certain degree of credibility since I have a degree in Forestry from Oklahoma State University. No telling how many kids are still looking for porcupines in our forests.

 

QuestionWe have lost some oak trees recently from lightening and want to replace these trees. We are looking to replace the canopy of shade we had, with trees, but I do not want to replace oak with oak, as I still have several Oaks and Hickory trees that drive me insane with the nuts they bear. I am looking for trees that will provide shade, and have deep rooting systems. We were successful in growing Seedless Ash in Iowa, but the climate there is different than here in Arkansas. Could Ash handle the extreme heat and survive? Other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

AnswerAsh does grow in Arkansas but can be plagued by borers. Some other options include Lacebark Elm- Ulmus parvifolia, tulip poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera, little leaf linden – Tilia cordata, Blackgum – Nyssa sylvatica and bald cypress – Taxodium distichum.


(October 2012)

QuestionWith the exception of the established tree in North Little Rock, do you know of any other successful efforts with live oaks in central Arkansas? As the past several winters have been rather mild, I am thinking about attempting to grow one on my south facing lawn. Any thoughts or advice?

AnswerLive oak trees will live and thrive in south Arkansas and do fairly well in central Arkansas, but don’t expect the plantation style live oaks you see further south. Live oaks are one of the few oak species that are evergreen. They are relatively slow growing in central Arkansas, but worth planting.


(September 2012)

QuestionWe have lost some oak trees recently from lightening and want to replace these trees. We are looking to replace the canopy of shade we had, with trees, but I do not want to replace oak with oak, as I still have several Oaks and Hickory trees that drive me insane with the nuts they bear. I am looking for trees that will provide shade, and have deep rooting systems. We were successful in growing Seedless Ash in Iowa, but the climate there is different than here in Arkansas. Could Ash handle the extreme heat and survive? Other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

AnswerAsh does grow in Arkansas but can be plagued by borers. Some other options include Lacebark Elm- Ulmus parvifolia, tulip poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera, little leaf linden – Tilia cordata, Blackgum – Nyssa sylvatica and bald cypress – Taxodium distichum.


(March 2012)

QuestionAfter an exhausting search last year, I was finally able to locate and purchase a Red Buckeye Tree for my Mother's 80th birthday. Now I think the tree is dead. I would greatly appreciate any advice on this type of tree and where I may purchase another if needed

AnswerLast growing season was tough on established plants, so doubly hard on newly planted trees and shrubs. Give your buckeye a chance to start growing before you start replanting. Buckeyes form a taproot quickly when grown from seed, which makes them fairly tough. I have not looked at our nurseries for a buckeye for awhile but I would not expect them to be that difficult to find. Check with your local nurseries, and if they don’t carry them, two that carry a wide variety of natives include Pine Ridge Gardens in London, Arkansas and Custom Landscape in Mt. Vernon, Arkansas


(October 2011)

QuestionI have 72 Bradford Pear lining my driveway, planted in 1995, have never been trimmed except underneath so you could mow. I have had a little wind damage but so far it has been to the inside and you couldn't tell it. But with winter close, they will never withstand any ice and probably not much more wind. I have a tree service to give me an estimate but this time of year won't be like trimming in the spring. Will they survive the winter cut this late in the year?

AnswerYou are fortunate to have as little damage as you have had. I am also surprised by the sheer number you have. Pruning this late in the year shouldn’t hurt a pear tree. However, their two most showy seasons are fall foliage—which they have yet to have; and spring blooms, whose buds are set. If you want to wait until spring to prune, you can, but if you are worried about winter damage, then prune as the foliage sheds. The proper way to prune is to thin out excessive branching—don’t top the trees, nor limb them up like telephone poles. Both of those methods ruin the trees and make them more susceptible to damage. Good luck and if you do lose a few trees, consider replacing with a different tree. Diversity is a good thing in a landscape.


(February 2012)

QuestionI am very interested in planting two types of trees in my yard in Maumelle. I wanted one that produces a brilliant red leaf in the fall and recently bought an October Glory Maple. I want the other one to produce a brilliant yellow leaf in the fall. I’ve done some research on the internet and some that have been mentioned are Ginkgo tree, but I’m not particularly in favor of this one. Others are Golden Sycamore, Silver Maple, Sugar Maple, and Sweet Gum. Janet, would your recommendation any one of these, or do you believe another would be a better choice for what I want to accomplish?

AnswerGingko’s have the prettiest yellow fall color, but they can be slow to get established. Once they do, they are great. Tulip poplars have decent yellow fall color, and thornless honey locust trees are a good yellow. I would avoid silver maple, and the sugar maple is not as well adapted in central Arkansas as it is up north. It can have yellow, red or orange fall color. Same with the sweetgums—I see way more orange and red pigmentation than yellow usually. Another option is the yellowwood tree, but it is also a little slow to establish. Choosing a tree for planting in the fall when it has its fall color, can also help you get one that suits your needs, but that would mean waiting another year.


(October 2011)

QuestionI live in Cabot and my house gets full sun the entire day. I went to a tree giveaway and got a little fir tree, a red oak and a dogwood. Would any of those be good for backyard plants? Will the dogwood do well in full sun? All of them are very young trees! I am thinking of putting a red maple in the back yard with loropetalum and azaleas to hide the cable box. I have never lived in Arkansas and don't know your trees.

AnswerWelcome to Arkansas. Dogwoods would not do well in full sun all day—they would sunburn every summer. They are best in full morning sun or filtered sun. The oak tree is a wonderful shade tree and by fir, I am assuming you have a bald cypress maybe? It too will make a large shade tree. Red maples are great mid-sized trees. If you want one with guaranteed fall color, choose one now with color or go with a named cultivar.


(November 2010)

QuestionMy wife and I viewed the most beautiful red maple we've ever seen on the grounds of the big Heber Springs dam viewing area just off the highway over the dam. This was about a month ago. We asked dam employees and area nurseries about its varietal name but no one knew other than it was a maple. The tree is conical. The leaf coloration is not red. It was a more subdued light red, with a distinctive orange, perhaps light pinkish tone. The tree has been planted as a specimen tree and has no other trees near it. Could you please specify quite precisely what it is and where we might obtain these trees?

AnswerMy bet is that it is a common red maple, Acer rubrum. The maples this year have been glorious in their fall color. However, just because it is a red maple does not mean it will be red in the fall. Some varieties turn orange, yellow or a variety of shades of red. Some actually have little fall color. If you want to purchase a fall foliaged red maple for your yard you need to buy it in the fall when it is in its fall color. There are named cultivars such as 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Flame' and 'October Glory' which are guaranteed to have fall color, but you can get some outstanding color from seedling maples, it just isn't a guarantee. Weather also plays a role, but if you buy a tree with good fall color, it should have it annually.


(August 2010)

QuestionThis came up in our flower garden three years ago we cut it down first year. We left it alone last year, and now this year it has multiplied to three stalks. It's about six feet tall and the leaves are about 14 inches wide. So far it hasn't produced any flowers.

AnswerWe get samples of this every year. I often refer to it as the Jack-in-the-beanstalk tree, because of its rampant young growth. The tree is Royal Paulownia or Empress Tree—Paulownia tomentosa. This year many very young trees bloomed with what looked like purple candelabras—I think last year’s copious rainfall had something to do with that. Normally they don’t start blooming until they are around 5 to 7 years old. The tree does produce pretty purple flowers but then they form woody seed capsules which disperse their seed and you end up with weedy seedlings coming up everywhere. Because they are fast growing they also are fairly soft wooded and can start falling apart with age. All in all, not a great yard tree.


(March 2010)

QuestionWe would like to plant two dwarf crape-myrtles in our back yard and would like to know if any have the pretty red bark for winter time.

AnswerUnfortunately, the dwarf crape myrtles do not develop pretty bark like the standard varieties.


(April 2010)

QuestionI would like your recommendation for a deciduous tree for Fayetteville with a maximum width or span of 20 ft. This is to provide shade for our patio and I would like fall color if possible. The limitation is because our back yard is only about 25 ft. wide from the house to privacy fence.

AnswerThere are several options including gingko, fastigiate European hornbeam or blackgum. All have a narrower growth habit but will still get tall enough to give you shade. The gingko has excellent yellow fall color and the blackgum is brilliant red. The hornbeam is an ok yellow.


(May 2010)

QuestionI just returned from a trip to California, and after seeing the huge redwoods I really want one for my yard. I realize I would not be around to see it in all its glory, but how I would smile every time I looked at it. Since I haven't seen redwoods in central Arkansas, there must be a reason. What conditions are required (soil PH, water requirements, etc), and would it be worth a try

AnswerThe giant redwood trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) which grow to 300 feet or more are quite impressive. The giant redwood tree will tolerate drier conditions and actually could probably do fine in Arkansas, yet I have never seen one at a nursery nor in an Arkansas landscape. You will probably have to mail order one. The Coastal redwood trees don’t like the heat and humidity of our summers. They do best in moist acidic soils with high atmospheric moisture. A close relative is the dawn redwood: Metasequoia glyptostroboides which will grow quite nicely in Arkansas and should be available from local nurseries.


(July 2010)

QuestionOur beautiful Chinese Photinia (30 ft. tall, crown 25 ft. in diam.) has died in spite of our efforts to save it with fungicide. It was not only a focal point, but the screen between our windows and our neighbors. We need to replace it with an evergreen shrub or tree that will eventually fill that space as gracefully. Any suggestions?

AnswerThere are several possibilities. Cryptomeria plants grow quite large at maturity but can be slow to get started. A common name is Japanese cedar. There are numerous cultivars and size varies based on which you choose. Another possibility is one of the hollies--lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia) is fast growing and I think fairly graceful in central and south Arkansas. Nellie R. Stevens holly is fairly fast growing but will not get near as tall as your photenia. As far as graceful, I would look at a deodara cedar. Some cultivars will grow way taller, but others can fit your size.


(April 2010)

QuestionI would like your recommendation for a deciduous tree for Fayetteville with a maximum width or span of 20 ft. This is to provide shade for our patio and I would like fall color if possible. The limitation is because our back yard is only about 25 ft. wide from the house to privacy fence.

AnswerThere are several options including gingko, fastigiate European hornbeam or blackgum. All have a narrower growth habit but will still get tall enough to give you shade. The gingko has excellent yellow fall color and the blackgum is brilliant red. The hornbeam is an ok yellow.


(September 2006)

QuestionWe recently had a storm that damaged our Bradford Pear tree and had to cut it down. We are looking for a replacement tree. Can you tell us what is a good replacement tree that is similar in height and shape? We also want it to be fast growing and provide good shade in the summer. Also, if we completely remove the old stump, how close in position can we safely re-plant a new tree? What is the best time to plant a new tree?

AnswerYou aren't the only one needing to replace a storm damaged ornamental pear tree. They are prone to storm damage. If you simply want the shape and would consider even a slightly taller mature tree, consider a fastigiate hornbeam - Carpinus betulus Fastigiata. The trees have the nice tear-drop shape, but are much more stable, and fairly fast growing. I would try to grind out the stump if you can, or the ground will begin to settle a bit over time as the trunk decays. Planting near the site will not be a problem. The best time to plant a new tree in my opinion, is fall. November is ideal. The ground is still fairly warm, the plants are dormant, and they can begin to establish roots before they need to deal with leaves and new growth. With today’s container grown plants, we can plant year-round, but to make it easier choose fall.


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